“It was my attempt to express all the elements of autistic sensory overload, for example light, sound and vision, to people on or off the spectrum, as many people have no idea what living with this aspect of life is like.“
My name is Nicola Copsey and I am a forty-six years old artist. I was diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism/Asperger’s in 2014, following a lifetime of mental health struggles with depression and acute anxiety.
An example of my literal thinking is when I was asked if I would feature on this blog, a question that was posed to me was, “Where do you do your best thinking?” I responded, “In my head of course!”
I have always gravitated towards technical drawing throughout school and college as I struggled with the freedom of expression in other forms of art. I never considered myself to be an artist because of this, although people said I was talented. Due to this, I have no recollection of what I class as my first creative piece of artwork. What I do remember at seven years old was attaching some of my “creative images” to a wire clothes-airer and then charging 50p to my relatives to view them. My mum has subsequently told me “They weren’t that great!”.
Over the years, I have spent a lot of time on my own because of my conditions. This has given me the opportunity to reflect on all aspects of life. There is not one specific influence/artist that I can attribute my style towards as it’s a conglomeration of all that I’ve absorbed throughout my life.
After my diagnosis, I started to try and portray elements of autism and mental health in a visual way for other people on or off the spectrum to relate to and help them understand some of my struggles.
Many of the pieces I have created are a visual representation of the struggles I have experienced within myself and continue to live with. Because of my technical background and the constraints within my autism, I have a tendency to use monochromatic colour within my pieces whilst experimenting with different art mediums. Therefore, each piece has its own individual style in the way it portrays its meaning.
I was asked, “how does being gay impact your work?”
Coming to terms with my sexuality has been another enormous mental challenge that I have and continue to deal with in addition to everything else. It has not been overtly influential in my imagery to date but is an aspect within them. For example, my first piece was hand-drawn in pencil, ‘Who am I, what is my purpose?’ It is a visual typographical representation of the one question I constantly ask myself.
The second image I have chosen is “Fragmentation – Losing Control” hand drawn with black pen (and a ruler for the squares!) When we are naked, we are at our most vulnerable, as portrayed by the woman falling through the black and white squares. These squares represent mental order falling into chaos with the body moving through them.
My third choice “Unclear” began with me doodling with a blue Biro. The scribblings created shading, and this developed into the final piece. It visualises the intense struggle of conflict in my head. This process of creation was unique to me, as most of my pieces are far more structured from concept to completion.
“Internal Dialogue” was my fourth choice. It is a handwritten typographical picture. There are two elements to this piece: the first is the concentric layers in a skull shape, the text representing the thoughts that swirl around in my head like a whirlpool, consuming me from the inside out. When the image is enlarged enough you can clearly see that the second element, the whirlpool of text, is actually a multitude of quotes and thoughts that I have experienced throughout my lifetime.
The final piece is a photographic montage called “Sensory Overload”. It was my attempt to express all the elements of autistic sensory overload, for example light, sound and vision, to people on or off the spectrum. As many people have no idea what living with this aspect of life is like.
I hope that by opening up to people through this blog, it will help others with their personal battles throughout life.
All artwork © Nicola Copsey 2020
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